11-Apr-2009 -- We realized last year that one of the confluence points is not far from where we travel regularly in winter. In April we finally visited the site during a trip my husband and I took to a spring get-together at a friend’s house about 25 miles by trail from the regional hub of Kotzebue where we live. Like all the other party guests, we traveled by snowmobile. From October to May, all the water bodies—lakes, ocean, rivers—in northwest Alaska are solidly frozen, making it easy to travel on the ice. However, with no roads linking our communities, our main form of transport are snowmobiles on a winter trail system that passes for “highways” in this region.
Visiting the confluence site required only a two-mile detour from our travel route. The temperature hovered near zero, somewhat colder than the April norm. Patchy fog from open ocean leads to the west obscured our view. A following west wind chilled us when we removed our gloves to fiddle with our cameras and GPS. Between the fog and the ice, the confluence site did not look like much on the day we visited—just another point in the frozen vastness of Kobuk Lake. On a clear day, a person would be able to see the shoreline in most directions and low mountains in the distance.
After finding the precise site and taking the requisite photos, we jumped on our snowmobiles again and drove the last few miles to our friends’ house. There we feasted on barbecued moose brisket, pickled herring, breaded sheefish, and plenty of other delicious foods. We competed in foot races, sweated in the sauna, told stories around the wood stove, and sipped beers among friends in the cool fresh air. An April day doesn’t get much better north of the Arctic Circle!